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Health Benefits of Disc Golf

By Nicholas Wilson | 05/17/2021
Health Benefits of Disc Golf

Disc golf has many inherent benefits. Simply showing up to the course will improve your overall health both physically and mentally via exercise, connection with people, connection with nature, stress reduction, and a multitude of other factors. The sport is quickly growing as people are looking for a sustainable way to get outside and be healthy. To put the health benefits of disc golf into a quantifiable framework I applied the findings of Dan Buettner in his book “Blue Zones.”

Lessons From Blue Zones

Dan Buettner is an explorer, educator, producer, storyteller, public speaker, and author of the book Blue Zones. He discovered five places in the world (dubbed “Blue Zones”) where the highest concentration of centenarians (people who are 100 or older) live. He then studied their way of life and found they had four overarching themes that contributed to their longevity; move naturally, connect, right outlook, and eat wisely. He found that there are certain ingredients of life that allow us to thrive. Insert disc golf.

Move Naturally

Disc golf and moving naturally are synonymous. Good for us because humans have walked for millions of years. Walking is how we were made to get around. In a study by Justin Menickelli, Ph.D. he found that during an average round of 18 holes of disc golf we walk 5,613 steps, or nearly three miles. This is right in the target range of natural movement researched by Mr. Buettner and his colleagues.

In today’s age of bigger, better, faster, and stronger we are bombarded with exercise strategies that maximize results in short amounts of time (i.e. CrossFit and other high-intensity workouts). While they may contribute to wellness in the short term, these are not sustainable outlets for a lifetime. These often contribute to a results-based ideology. We will always be more fulfilled getting outside, observing nature, taking it slow, walking, and throwing a disc.

Connection

Connection involves a sense of belonging, a feeling of being amongst your tribe. The vast majority of disc golf rounds are played with friends and family. This sense of camaraderie and shared experience leads to fulfillment. Disc golf also tends to excite the entire emotional spectrum like few other activities. This allows for a greater connection and understanding amongst friends as you play more rounds together.

Another aspect of connection is the great outdoors. We are a part of this planet and the more time we can be in natural environments the more we feel rooted in ourselves. Whether we know it or not, simply being outside lends itself to greater health both physically and mentally.

Right Outlook

Disc golf can be a sanctuary for health if we show up with intention. Everyone deals with stress in their lives. No one is immune. The big question is how we deal with stress? Mr. Buettner had this to say about how people in Blue Zones deal with stress, “What the world’s longest-lived people have that we don’t are routines to shed that stress. Okinawans take a few moments each day to remember their ancestors, Adventists pray, Ikarians take a nap, and Sardinians do happy hour.”

Disc golf can be our sanctuary to shed stress if we allow it to be. Yes, there will be frustration but there is also elation. Do we take the frustration home with us? The main takeaway is that our outlook is what matters. Disc golf affords you the experience of the great outdoors with friends and loved ones. Appreciate this and know that it contributes to your longevity. Take a deep breath of gratitude and then toe that tee pad.

Eat Wisely

While eating wisely is not inherent to disc golf there is an aspect that is pertinent. We know that we will be walking multiple miles. For myself, it is simply irrational to eat unhealthy before a round of disc golf. I know that I will pay for it as I walk around the course. As a result, I typically eat a healthy meal an hour before a round so that I am digested and ready for exercise. I then throw healthy snacks in my bag for in-round calories and to the course I go. While I understand not everyone eats wisely due to disc golf, I feel there is a correlation.

Weight Loss

There are countless stories of weight loss through disc golf as the main source of exercise. Obesity is a huge issue in the United States as over 42% of the population is obese. Obesity leads to many chronic issues including the number one cause of death in the US; heart disease. But we can do something about this.

In this article from the Wall Street Journal, Zach Deputy’s story is chronicled as he dropped 100 pounds. He centered his weight loss strategy around disc golf and a healthy diet. He had this to say about how disc golf makes it easier to get exercise, “If someone told me to hike up a hill for a beautiful view, I’d think about it. If you put baskets up a mountain, well there’s no question I’d hike up to toss a disc.”

He then went beyond weight loss to share how disc golf led to more connection in his life, “It’s a great way to catch up with friends I haven’t seen in a while. On the disc golf course, you have a few hours to really connect.”

Lifelong Sport

Disc golf is easy on the body so that you can play for the majority of your life. As long as you practice proper mechanics and bring a healthy mindset you can play for decades to come. Take a look at Don Shinn. This video shows you the man who currently holds the world distance record for centenarians. He is a true inspiration who shows up with intention. He had this to say about his approach to disc golf;

“You have to have ambition and intention to do something, you know. Then you make yourself very young.”

In an interview with the Santa Maria Times, Mr. Shinn had this to say about his connection to disc golf;

“It’s a wonderful sport which relaxes the mind and soul very strongly. I feel strong. It keeps my mind in great shape and makes me feel young.”

Don plays at least one round every day with his friends. This structures his days and gives him connection and purpose. He is the perfect example of someone who applies the lessons of “Blue Zones” to disc golf, though it would be a stretch for most people to expect to play disc golf into their 100’s!

Conclusion

Show up to the disc golf course with friends and family and you will be more healthy. It will contribute to a greater vitality both physically and mentally. Let the lessons of the “Blue Zones” seep into your consciousness and apply them to your commitment to disc golf. It may just lead to more health and longevity. I leave you with a quote from Don Shinn;

“Disc golf, from what I found out, is a top-notch physical exercise which trains our body and mind.”

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